Updated: Monday, May 7, 2018 at 9:42 a.m.
Just a day before West Virginia’s primary election, President Donald Trump has weighed in on the GOP Primary. With Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship gaining widespread attention in the lead-up to Tuesday, Trump tweeted early Monday morning — urging West Virginians to vote against the coal baron. Monday marks the first occasion the president has publicly spoken for or against any candidate in the race.
“To the great people of West Virginia we have, together, a really great chance to keep making a big difference. Problem is, Don Blankenship, currently running for Senate, can’t win the General Election in your State…No way!” Trump wrote on the social media platform.
The Republican president maintains a strong approval rating in West Virginia at 61 points, according to March polling from Morning Consult. He won the state in the 2016 election by 42 percentage points.
He also referenced the failed U.S. Senate bid of Roy Moore in a December Alabama special election. “Remember Alabama,” the president said. Trump supported Moore, who was accused of sexual assault against children, in the race against Democrat Doug Jones.
Trump encouraged West Virginia voters to support either Congressman Evan Jenkins or state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey over Blankenship. All six of the candidates in the West Virginia GOP primary for U.S. Senate have attempted to align themselves with the president, who are hoping to take on U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin in November. Manchin faces his own primary challenger Tuesday in progressive newcomer Paula Jean Swearengin.
Blankenship served one year in prison for conspiring to violate federal mine safety standards, a misdemeanor. He finishes a year of supervised release Wednesday, the day after the election.
In a written statement, Blankenship addressed Trump’s tweet:
“The President is a very busy man and he doesn’t know me, and he doesn’t know how flawed my two main opponents are in this primary,” Blankenship said. “The establishment is misinforming him because they do not want me to be in the U.S. Senate and promote the President’s agenda.”
Blankenship argued that neither Jenkins or Morrisey could beat Manchin without his support, but he would prevail over the Democratic stalwart “even without the support of the establishment.”
“West Virginia voters should remember that my enemies are Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and my opponents would not even be running as Republicans had I not resurrected the Republican Party in West Virginia,” Blankenship added.
In early April, Trump appeared in White Sulphur Springs for an event billed as a roundtable discussion on tax reform, although the event was campaign-like fashion. He spent much of the event taking aim at Manchin while being flanked on either side by Jenkins and Morrisey.
He explicitly referenced the race at the end of the event, as he asked the audience to cheer for Jenkins or Morrisey in a demonstration of how the crowd planned to vote in the upcoming GOP senate primary.
“Patrick and Evan, good luck. I don’t know, you two. Good luck,” Trump said in White Sulphur Springs.
Polls open Tuesday at 6:30 a.m. and close at 7:30 p.m.
This article was originally published by West Virginia Public Broadcasting.